O'Malley launches InvestMaryland Challenge startup competition

It seems everywhere you look in Maryland, there's a startup competition sprouting up. We've had the Startup Bus. This weekend is Startup Weekend.

And now?

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced the InvestMaryland Challenge. The challenge will reward three prizes of $100,000 each to three startups in the categories of information technology, life sciences and "general/open." (Cue up the photo-sharing apps!)

Some fine print: The InvestMaryland Challenge is open to legally-organized businesses with fewer than 25 employees and annual revenues of less than $1 million. The IT and Life Sciences categories are open only to Maryland-based companies; companies outside Maryland may compete in the general category but, if selected to receive the top prize, must be willing to locate their business to the State.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development is running the competition. It seems like it's meant to promote a far bigger program: The $84 million InvestMaryland initiative that O'Malley championed and was passed into law earlier this year. 

That initiative will pump millions into early stage companies in Maryland over the next several years, with the state acting in part like an investor expecting real returns. State officials repeatedly say it's not a subsidy of high-tech companies in the state, because the state will expect its principal back, plus some returns.

I wrote about the InvestMaryland program this year; see here.

The first investment in a Maryland tech company, coincidentally -- or not -- happened yesterday. Bethesda-based BrainScope earned a $250,000 investment through the program. More details from the O'Malley press release here:

InvestMaryland represents an increased commitment by the State to invest in and attract private investment for early-stage science and technology companies. The initiative was funded by a first-of-its-kind online tax credit auction that raised $84 million in March 2012.

BrainScope, which is pioneering sophisticated neurotechnology to quickly assess Traumatic Brain Injury at the initial point of care, will receive the first $250,000 investment from the program. The Maryland Venture Fund had previously invested $250,000 in BrainScope.

BrainScope’s portable, non-invasive devices will help military personnel and first responders more quickly diagnose and begin to treat concussions and other Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year. In addition to its applications in improving outcomes for soldiers who suffer TBI’s, BrainScope’s technology may also be used to assist in sports-related brain injuries.




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